Recruiting Needs to Burn

Dramatic much? Yes, I am, but I also speak the truth. I have been in the technical recruiting space for over a decade and I’m waving my white flag.

But, before I get too deep here, lets talk about the survey results.

I conducted an informal survey about the state of recruiting last week and right before I hit publish on this post, 560 engineers had completed it (70% completion rate!!!). I can’t get most engineers to keep their calendars up to date, but I can get 560 folks to complete a survey?! I was shook.

The number of people willing to give their time to complete the survey tells me almost as much as the data did. WE ARE ALL SCREAMING FOR A CHANGE.

Almost no one is having a positive experience being recruited. And if they are, it’s because a recruiter was simply forthright, helpful and didn’t low-ball them on salary (pretty low bar).

The #1 phrase referenced in this survey was that engineers did not appreciate when recruiters didn’t ‘do their homework’/’look at their work before reaching out’/’know who they were’. Y’all this was referenced at least 200 times.

As for ‘dream experience’ almost everyone (more than half) prefer to find a job through their own network.

Findings – We’ve got major problems.

First,

Y’all are perpetuating techs homogenous culture with your frame of mind.

How does one get into the ‘network’ to have work to put out to the ‘network’ enabling them to become someone a recruiter could even ‘do their homework’ on? It’s a vicious cycle that let’s a very small number of POC in.

Honestly, we need to change the way we find jobs entirely if we want to be as inclusive as we claim.

Second,

Burn it down.

The reputation of the recruiter is past the point of repair. The things candidates desire from a job search process and how recruiters are trained/what they are even able to give (ie recruiters aren’t engineers) is incompatible.

At some point organizations need to revamp the recruiting function. Hiring managers should lead recruiting for their own teams (they would have to be given the time to do this) and work in step with a people partner type who understands organizational dynamics, can balance the needs of teams vs leadership, are pros at communication, etc. I’m not saying there aren’t good recruiters out there, I’m actually saying that the best recruiters are ALREADY those people partners, just with a different title.

In the current world state it’s necessary to push ourselves to discomfort to enable change. And I wonder, is leaving recruiting ‘as is’ just another way for us to secretly/unintentionally(?) block out those who aren’t ‘in our network’ now?

Zooming Outta Control

The current world climate, a COVID world where everyone works remote, is tough! I have been working remotely for about 6 years and I didn’t ‘get the hang of it’ for at least 1, and yet, we’re expecting folks today to be productive overnight. Rough.

One of the main complaints I hear is how much time people are having to spend on zoom/video calls. Yes, if you are working from home, it’s inevitable that when in meetings you will be on zoom calls. But, I truly think we are using zoom to solve for something beyond ‘needing a meeting.’ 

So what void might we be trying to fill with zoom?

  • A desire for human connection?
  • A boss who wants to ensure work is being done through visuals?
  • Confusion about how remote work is even done?

To me, when an organization is distributed (especially during COVID), it is even more critical to have meetings ONLY when necessary. 

A few reasons I say this is:

  • Folks with added responsibility at home due to COVID have even less time to waste
  • There are more distractions at home (especially for those new to working remotely without a proper setup) so folks are honestly less likely to pay attention
  • Everyone is just doing their best mentally right now so give people a dang brain break!

So, first things first, when should you be having meetings?

  • If there is a time constraint – sometimes async communications can be slow due to time zones. When an update, decision, etc needs to be worked through and/or communicated quickly, you might need a meeting.
  • If it involves emotions/people issues – let’s face it, text can be interpreted differently depending on the reader. If there is a sensitive issue involved, sometimes it’s just better to have a meeting.
  • If it’s complex – writing a challenging issue can be daunting to some folks, maybe talking through it as a meeting would be best. (pro tip – maybe it’s a kickoff meeting followed by async work).
  • If you want and/or need everyone to find out at the same time – there’s no guarantee people will read a written message at the same time. If it needs to be heard as a group, a meeting is best.

Hot Take: People have meetings instead of an alternative because it’s less work to throw together a meeting than write thoughtful communication….don’t be that person.

The TLDR is it’s more critical now than ever to work towards having meetings only when necessary and making them productive (which can only happen through prep work).

There’s some additional posts needed here about how to effectively request feedback in order to move work along async and how to get that human connection without loading peoples calendars with unnecessary meetings, but more on that later.

Caring for Employees During COVID

Times are tough for the world and it’s critical to be looking out for your employees during COVID. You should *want* to care for your employees, but even if you don’t there are tons of studies that show happier employees work better/more/faster/etc.

Most companies are facing new experiences with all-remote work (it’s not easy!) so I came up with a few tips about how to nurture your employees from a distance during a pandemic.

  1. Be explicit about expectations – WRITE IT DOWN AND SHARE, WORD OF MOUTH IS NOT ENOUGH. Especially in newly remote situations, tell your employees what you expect of them, do not assume people just know. Also, saying ‘we’re flexible’ isn’t enough detail. This should cover:
    • Child care
    • Meetings
    • Work Hours
    • Mental Health
  2. Be hyper aware of triggers, racism and exclusion happening on Slack – Although this should be done all the time, during political and world turmoil people say ignorant things (often without thinking) and it is your job to protect your employees. I encourage companies to make an announcement about it being everyone’s job to protect each other by raising your hand to HR/leadership/someone you trust when you see something that doesn’t sit well with you. It is critical not to sweep things under the rug. Depending on the statement and reach it is important to acknowledge and educate (this can easily be done without throwing someone under the bus).
  3. Check-ins – Talk to your employees in a way that works for them. Not everyone wants to get in their feels with their boss (and that’s totally fine; do not force it!!). I’ve found a few different ways that seem to work for folks.
    • Conversational check in – the ‘regular’ way (can be done on zoom or slack)
    • Numbers – giving folks a range of numbers and ask where they are at
    • Emojis – sometimes I’ll do this in a group. What emoji best describes you today?
    • Stop light – what color are you today?
  4. Find ways to stop talking about COVID – give people a breather! Try talking about literally anything else for a minute. Basically, just a fun way to be interactive on slack. Examples:
    • Playlist recommendations
    • #mugshots – people send pics of the mugs they are using that morning
    • Trivia
    • Gifs – sharing your favorite gif and/or give a gif category and ask for shares (ie Judge Judy gif day!)

Most importantly, be kind to each other.

Ask Question, Be Quiet

One of the hardest parts of a 1:1’s is making space for folks to answer your questions.

You might be thinking, ‘I have great 1:1 sessions’ and/or ‘we talked and came up with an answer to the outstanding question.’ These may be true, but it’s important to really think about the conversations you’re having and dissect who does the talking and how the answers are reached.

It seems easy; ask a question, wait for an answer. But, being quiet is often challenging! I’ve found there are a few reasons you might accidentally be clogging the space for someone to answer a question.


Awkward Silence

As humans, silence makes us uncomfortable, so we try to fill it. It’s important to realize that there is a difference between awkward silence and giving people space to process, brainstorm and answer a question.

I find that taking a breath after I ask a question to force a pause helps. It can also be calming to add ‘I’ll give you a moment to think about it’, or ‘There are no wrong answers’ to alleviate pressure to search for the right answer.

Second Guessing Execution –

Especially when growing confidence in leading 1:1’s, it can be common to (often unknowingly) second guess your delivery.

You: Asks question

Your Brain: Did I ask the question well? Does it make sense? Have I crossed a line in asking this? Should I reword it?

This can make a question turn into a monologue, create an unintentional tangent to a new topic or you just straight up answering the question.

If you ask a question and think you may have confused your audience, simply ask them to repeat back what they heard. If there is misalignment, assume responsibility to communicate more clearly.

Example: Just to make sure we’re on the same page, what did you hear me ask?

No Answer –

In an effort to protect the person you’re interacting with, you might fill in the space because you fear they might not know an answer. Or maybe they will get nervous and freeze; you don’t want to embarrass them!

Although based in good intent, you have to remember the people you are working with are grownups who are smart enough to have been hired at your company to do a job. Trust that they are capable of critical thinking and even tough conversations.

If someone freezes, guide them to explore, but don’t take them right to the end. I find suggesting a potential next step and asking them for advice can help get people talking.

Example – What if we did this next? What do you think would happen? Do you think there are any negative consequences? How would the team react? Is there a better way?

Wrong Answer –

Sometimes we don’t leave space for people to answer questions because we already know what we want them to do. If this is the case, do not pose it as a question. An excellent way to lose the trust of others is asking for their opinion on a situation where the outcome is already set.


I encourage you to take a look at your own 1:1’s and see if you are creating enough space for answers and thoughts besides your own. Remember that behavior changes take time and practice, so be patient with yourself.

Pro Tip – a sticky note reminder on your computer to ‘take a pause’ works wonders!